Magna International

A Conversation with Magna's Ethics Chief

Joanne Horibe, Magna’s vice president of ethics and chief compliance officer, talks about her vision for “driving integrity in everything we do,” why Magna is a great place to work, and the challenges of the sandwich generation.?

When she was tapped to become one of the first female vice presidents of Magna International Inc., Joanne Horibe said she realized her responsibility “to the other women who are coming up behind me to be a successful role model.”

Today, the multitasking 17-year Magna veteran is not only one of the architects of the company’s culture of compliance, but a dedicated community volunteer known for her leadership activities outside of work.

Horibe, 49, who describes herself as “practical, collaborative and decisive,” holds bachelor’s and law degrees from The University of Western Ontario. She oversees the design, implementation and management of Magna’s global ethics and legal compliance program which was expanded to include global data protection and privacy last year.

Compliance today is where environmental issues were for companies 20 years ago. We’re talking about investing time and money today to avoid long-term costs in the future.

Describe what you had in mind when you first started building this department.

To be honest, when I was first tasked with building this department five years ago I wasn’t sure where to start.? Since I wasn’t a compliance expert, I had to get up to speed quickly and did extensive information interviews with functional experts both inside and outside of Magna to figure out how to roll-out a global program that would work within our decentralized structure.

And now?

Today, my vision is that acting with integrity and respect underpins everything at Magna; that our customers, employees, shareholders and partners know that we are not only reliable when it comes to delivering innovative, quality products, but that we are reliable for driving integrity in everything we do.

How do you define “compliance”?

This is another lesson that I have learned, that “compliance” and a “follow the rules” approach, aren’t very inspiring or likely to lead to long-term cultural change. Our focus today is on acting with integrity and respect and helping our employees understand how it impacts them in their jobs on a daily basis. We start with our Code of Conduct and Ethics but there are often unique facts to consider and shades of gray. That’s why we have a global team in place to help our employees figure out where the lines are.

Our reputation for integrity is a strategic imperative that sets us apart.

The lines have shifted, haven’t they?

Yes, the #MeToo movement is a good example of how the lines have changed. Powerful people have been taken to task for behavior that was viewed as acceptable 20 years ago. There is a much higher demand for transparency today. That’s a good thing.? I’ve often compared ethics and compliance to where environmental issues were for companies a few decades ago. We’re talking about investing time and money today to avoid long-term costs in the future.

Besides making integrity a priority, what else makes Magna a great place to work?

If you want to clock in and clock out, Magna may not be the right cultural fit. We give our people tons of responsibility and autonomy. I love that. I love the ability to make things happen and happen quickly. If you’re that type of person, Magna is the perfect place to be. We talk a lot about our entrepreneurial culture. It means being pro-active, a self-starter and results-oriented. If that’s something you’re passionate about, you’ll do very well at Magna.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I think my team members appreciate that I spend a lot of time and effort in their development and am invested in their growth.? I give them a lot of independence, but they know I am here for guidance and support if they need me. I believe in frequent communication and involve and include them in the vision and decision-making for the department.

You’ve done advocacy and volunteer work in your spare time. Has that had an impact on your professional life?

Absolutely!? I co-founded Conceivable Dreams, an advocacy group for infertility patients that successfully lobbied the Ontario government to reinstate funding for in-vitro fertilization (IVF).? Even though I knew nothing about healthcare at the time, I surrounded myself with passionate, smart people, we created a focused plan and together we achieved our goal. This became my blueprint for creating Magna’s ethics and legal compliance program.? I also volunteered with Landmark Worldwide where I taught a leadership development course for nearly a decade.? Learning how to be an effective teacher and standing up in front of 50 – 100 people each week quickly helped me to get over my fear of public speaking.? I often marvel that my current job is a perfect blend of my legal background and my leadership experience.

What is the next step for you in terms of community involvement?

Since I am obsessed with efficiency, I am always thinking up ways to bring people together to share the workload (e.g. car-pooling, batch cooking parties).? Now that I’m a mom to a second-grader and a daughter to a dad with Alzheimer’s, my dream is to pool the talents of my female network to lighten the load and support each other. Stay tuned for more on “The Village”.?